ICURe supports the transition of commercially promising ideas and innovation out of labs and into the marketplace

Exeter receives 24th ICURe award for commercialisation of research

The University of Exeter has been granted its 24th award for Innovation to Commercialisation of University Research (ICURe). The awards are made to teams led by Early Career Researchers to support the transition of commercially promising ideas and innovation out of labs and into the marketplace where they will secure the greatest impact.

The awards are funded by Innovate UK through programmes delivered by SETsquared, NorthbyNorthwest and Midlands Partnerships. Exeter is one of 60 universities and research establishments who have benefitted from the programme to date. With the SETsquared partnership currently recruiting for its 29th cohort, Exeter has more applications in the pipeline. ICURe has clear demonstrable impact for Exeter projects including the creation of more than 9 startup and spin-out ventures to date. In total, 104 new companies and 500 new jobs have been created nationally by ICURe graduates.

At the end of the market validation phase of the programme, teams may be encouraged to undertake further research, pursue licensing opportunities, or seek investment to spin-out a new company. Those projects demonstrating strong market potential may receive further ICURe funding to develop their business plan and apply for start-up funding.

Dr Neil Hayes, University of Exeter’s Assistant Director Innovation, Impact and Business said “Participation in the ICURe programme has led to a step change in spin-out and start-up activity at Exeter, almost two thirds of the new ventures created in the last 5 years were established by ICURe graduates. Importantly it is not only those teams who go on to form spin-outs that benefit from the ICURe experience, development of entrepreneurial skills and links with business established through the programme open up new research collaborations and career opportunities for participants.”

Speaking of her experience with ICURe, Dr Olivia Champion, CEO of Biosystems Technology explained: “The ICURe programme was definitely key to establishing Biosystems Technology. It fast tracked the commercial translation of our academic research into a viable business proposition. I learnt a huge amount of commercial knowledge and expertise in a short period of time.”

Dr Dani Hilliard developed Argue to Think, from her PhD research. The process is designed to help both students and business clients improve their verbal and written communication to achieve academic and corporate success – from dissertations and theses to business reports and board papers. Dani explained: “Through ICURe I was able to determine whether my PhD research could be commercially viable. I had tremendous support from both business and academic mentors as we defined how exactly a social scientist could translate her research into a business that suits a variety of market sectors.”

Minviro, a spin-out company from the University of Exeter, focussing on driving environmental sustainability in the mining and raw materials sector was established with support from ICURe. Speaking about the opportunities gained via the programme Founder, Dr Robert Pell said: “ICURe has been a great programme which has helped translating academic ideas into a successfully commercial enterprise. The training that the ICURe team provided, and the financial support which allowed me to engage directly with potential customers around the world, helped shape Minviro’s offerings in the area of sustainability for the mining and raw material sector. ”

SENISCA, is an emerging spin-out from the University of Exeter, initially focussing on developing anti-ageing cosmetics and cosmeceuticals, followed by a wider vision to deliver innovative, effective pharmaceutical treatments for the diseases of ageing. Their aim is to create pharmaceutical interventions to treat age-related chronic diseases.

Speaking of the support via ICURe, Dr Ben Lee, Technical Specialist and CTO of SENISCA said: “Our progress through ICURe highlighted the difference in thinking that is required for researchers as opposed to entrepreneurs, and the ICURe journey was pivotal in helping us develop these skills to concisely communicate our vision to investors, connect with industry leaders and interact effectively with the wider business community.”

Summarising Dr Lee concluded: “Undertaking the ICURe programme would be invaluable to anyone who has a research idea that they think has genuine commercial potential. Not only does ICURe provide a solid business grounding for academics, the continuing support from the ICURe team is excellent and the programme overall opens doors to a host of opportunities that would genuinely be unavailable under normal circumstances.”

Crucially, given the current circumstances amid Covid 19, ICURe has been successfully translated into an online programme and can continue to run despite restrictions on travel and face to face meetings.  For further information and details of how to apply please contact Dr Neil Hayes for Exeter and Jim Williams for Cornwall.

Date: 9 July 2020

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